The 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was inaugurated March 4, 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression.
A quarter of America’s workforce was unemployed. Farmers were in deep trouble as prices fell by 60%. Industrial production had fallen by more than half since 1929. Two million were homeless; organized crime and outlaws were on the rise. By the evening of March 4, 32 of the 48 states, as well as the District of Columbia, had closed their banks. The New York Federal Reserve Bank was unable to open on the 5th, as huge sums had been withdrawn by panicky customers in previous days.
Beginning with his inauguration address, Roosevelt blamed the economic crisis on bankers and financiers, the quest for profit, and the self-interest basis of capitalism. He led Congress to enact the New Deal, which was the beginning of America’s big government welfare state. The economy improved rapidly from 1933 to 1937, but then went into a deep recession. To this day, historians and economists still debate the wisdom of his policies. It was World War II that ended mass unemployment and the Great Depression.
In 1935, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act was unconstitutional because it delegated legislative power to the president. The Supreme Court also overturned many of Roosevelt’s other programs. So Roosevelt in 1937 proposed a law allowing him to appoint 5 new justices, thereby expanding the Court from 9 to 14 justices. This “court packing” plan ran into intense political opposition even from his own party, led by Vice President Garner, since it went against a founding principle of America — the separation of powers — by giving Roosevelt control over the Court, the judicial branch of government. A bipartisan Conservative Coalition was formed which successfully defeated the court-packing attempt, as well as prevented Roosevelt from passing much new legislation.
Roosevelt said this stunningly frightening thing in 1933 (h/t Catherine Austin Fitts’ Blog):
“All safe deposit boxes in banks or financial institutions have been sealed…and may only be opened in the presence of an agent of the IRS.”
In other words, President Barack Obama is not unique in the history of our country. America has seen, overcome, and survived someone similar. And we’ll pull ourselves together in our present hard times and do it again.